As I stood on the top of the Austrian mountain, I believed that the parachute would work. I had read about parachutes working and I had seen films of parachutes working but now, as the man I was strapped to started walking swiftly towards the edge of the cliff, I had to decide if my belief was well founded; and then we jumped.
I understood that day that there is a big difference between knowing about parachutes, understanding the qualities of a parachute and placing your trust in the parachute to save your life.
Nicodemus was a very learned man with considerable responsibility for the Jewish community in that area but he was also a very puzzled man, a man with something missing in his life and a man with something missing in his experience of God. Nicodemus knew of God, he knew a great deal about God but he didn’t truly know God and so he seeks Jesus for help; the perfect place to start.
Jesus’ instruction is simple but challenging. The flesh is born of flesh but the spirit must be born of the spirit. For anyone to enter the Kingdom of God they must experience a rebirth. You can’t enter the Kingdom trusting in your own goodness, your own knowledge or your own works. It’s all about Jesus. He is the way in. As we respond in obedience to His call our relationship with God is put right. It’s a decision to be made.
Our readings have a common theme in that they are all extolling the fruits of a right relationship with God. Abraham trusted God and was blessed, Paul in his letter to the church in Rome reminds us that a right relationship with God is based upon trusting Jesus and the psalmist directs us to turn away from self-reliance and to trust in God. It’s all about perspective and looking to God.
Abram’s obedience leads to a blessing and those who are blessed by God are then directed to become a blessing to others. It’s a physical as well as a spiritual truth that a person cannot give away what they do not first possess and so Jesus directs Nicodemus towards the truth of what he needs. The greatest act of obedience towards God is acknowledging and accepting his son Jesus – who He is and why He came. To continue my opening analogy; Jesus is our spiritual parachute. He is the only one who can save us from falling towards our death: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ Jn.3:16
Lent is a wonderful time of the year to re-examine our understanding and our gratitude as to why Jesus came to live amongst us; that we might have life and life in abundance. Now and for ever.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale